On 30 November 2017, the Council of the European Union issued its opinion on the European Commission’s draft Regulation on establishing a single digital gateway. The Member States have made numerous changes to the Commission's ambitious proposal published on 2 May 2017.
Mandatory procedures on offer
An example of the changes made can be seen in the mandatory procedures which Member States must provide. According to Article 5, Member States are obliged to ensure that the procedures listed in Annex II can be accessed and completed fully online. This annex lists online procedures regarding a person’s life events. The following life events are of importance to social security: working, moving, retiring, starting a business, and doing business.
The rules regarding multiple languages have also been revised. Information should be in the official language of the Member State where the online procedure is being processed, plus another official EU language which is understood by the largest number of cross-border users possible. According to EUROSTAT, the most widely used second language is English.
However, this does not mean that the procedures, forms or results must be made available in a foreign language. Only the information that users need to understand the basic rules and requirements that apply to their situation need to be translated.
Costs for translations will come from the EU budget, which will provide for an annual translation budget per Member State (Articles 9a, 25aa).
Internal Market Information System (IMI)
Following requests from the Member States, there has been clarification regarding the use of the Internal Market Information System (IMI). Namely, this system will only be used if there is no other alternative. In terms of social security, the cross-border exchange of social security data will be done in the future via the Electronic Exchange of Social Security Information (EESSI). As such, the Internal Market Information System (IMI) does not need to be used here. However, as soon as a request for information or cooperation has been submitted via IMI, all other authorities are obliged to cooperate and respond (Article 26).
Summary and next steps
The Council’s decision is one step closer towards engaging the single digital gateway. Its aim is to reduce the administrative burden put on citizens and businesses, to prevent discrimination and to ensure the functioning of the internal market with regard to the provision of information, procedures, assistance and problem-solving services.
It remains to be seen how the process will evolve. The informal trilogue negotiations between the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council can now begin. As the positions taken by the Council and the EU Parliament are still very different, it is unlikely that agreement will be reached in 2017 even though the Estonian Presidency had aimed to achieve this.
More information can be found here.